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      The Metaphorical and Mythical Use of the Kidney in Antiquity

      American Journal of Nephrology

      S. Karger AG

      Kidney, Metaphor, Medical philosophy, Ancient history, medicine, Mythology, Bible

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          While the Syrians and the Arabs viewed the liver as the center of life, the kidneys, in contrast, held a primary place of importance in Israel. In Hebrew tradition, they were considered to be the most important internal organs along with the heart. In the Old Testament most frequently the kidneys are associated with the most inner stirrings of emotional life. But they are also viewed as the seat of the secret thoughts of the human; they are used as an omen metaphor, as a metaphor for moral discernment, for reflection and inspiration. This field of tension in metaphoric usage is resolved under the conception of the kidneys as life center. In the Old Testament the kidneys thus are primarily used as metaphor for the core of the person, for the area of greatest vulnerability. For us today, this metaphorical use of the kidneys has lost its meaning. One reason for its disappearance is certainly the monopoly of causal-analytic rationality in science of today. The kidney has developed from myth to organ, and with this transition a variety of perspectives and ways of looking at knowledge inherent in imaginative thought have been lost. But the metaphor uncovers a deeper level of truth, it represents another form of reconstruction of reality which needs not necessarily be subordinate to the scientific rationality. Today as well, these imaginative ideas can provide an approach to an essential level of reality which may otherwise remain hidden.

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          Author and article information

          Am J Nephrol
          American Journal of Nephrology
          S. Karger AG
          April 1999
          23 April 1999
          : 19
          : 2
          : 101-106
          Institute for the History of Medicine and Science, University of Lübeck, Germany
          13434 Am J Nephrol 1999;19:101–106
          © 1999 S. Karger AG, Basel

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          Page count
          References: 32, Pages: 6
          Self URI (application/pdf):
          Origins of Nephrology – Magic, Myth and Science


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